NEW SERIES: The Canada Our Vets Want to Build — Their Fight for Rights and Compassionate Treatment POST SEVEN

Veteran advocates — SEAN BRUYEA and WALTER CALLAGHAN — have posted reasons for the Canadian Senate to reject Bill C-55. They are posted below. Continued public ignorance and government apathy proves our armed forces and veterans are being treated as throwaways. Is this what our serving members expected from our country when they signed up to serve? Not at all. The pity is that many of our military and emergency personnel are highly idealistic as well as patriotic, qualities we revere. To see the faith of our vets and serving members abused is below contemptible. Send in the robots. Our country doesn’t deserve the sacrifice of our sons and daughters to protect the assets of the rich and greedy. BONNIE

Band-aid Solutions Just for Show

 March 22, 2011

Re: Bill C-55

Dear Senators:

As you may have noticed, there is a diverse opinion from veterans as to the value of C-55. What cannot be disputed is that like the New Veterans Charter (C-45 in 2005), C-55 has failed to receive full Parliamentary due process. The House Committee only gave it one hearing. You are right to hold it up in the Senate but please let me explain why.

Once again, the threat of an election is being used to deny freedom of speech and due process by the very individuals who have lost so much defending freedom of expression and Parliament.

Many veterans do not understand that the benefits will not be available to most veterans. They do not understand that C-55 requires that a veteran if already collecting Pension Act monthly pension must not only have greater than 100% disability rating to qualify for the Permanent Impairment Allowance but the veteran must be first awarded the Permanent Impairment Allowance before receiving the Permanent Impairment Allowance Supplement (PIA-S: the $1000 per month).

These of course are not automatic and must be approved by the unfair and discriminatory VAC bureaucratic processes.

C-55 is filled with such discriminatory criteria which will deny benefits to all but a handful of veterans.

Many veterans also do not understand that C-55 will actually save the government money. The government is not spending $2 billion annually or even over five years on C-55 as the public has been grossly misled. An independent costing of C-55 shows that three of the programs (ELB top up to $40,000, PIA and PIA-S) will cost no more than $50 million annually but will likely come in at around $37 million annually.

When the cost savings of spreading the same lump sum over time is added in, VAC will actually save a net of $20 to $60 million annually depending on the number of veterans taking the lump sum paid out over time option.

Leadership of certain veteran organisations appear to be ‘managed’ by the bureaucracy to blindly support whatever legislation is presented in Parliament. Evidence points to this to being the case with the New Veterans Charter in 2005 and it appears to still be the case with C-55. These leaders are likely not bad people but they are likely not aware of the facts. More importantly, they appear to be not explaining the facts to their membership and yet they claim to represent their membership’s views on the matter.

The truth is that the veteran organizations speaking out in favour of C-55 have fewer than 15,000 CF veterans for whom they can clearly account for. Most cannot provide independently audited membership numbers.  There are more than 680,000 serving and retired CF members as well as more than 1 million family members.

Why does this leadership of a select group of as few as six organizations support C-55? While in uniform, we are indoctrinated to completely trust the government we were willing to die for. None wanted to believe that the Canadian government would actually pass unfair legislation or say untruthful things about veteran programs. Unfortunately, this has been the sad truth with the original New Veterans Charter as five years have proven.  Now, history is repeating itself with C-55.

Please do not allow this bill to pass without full Parliamentary due process. Canadians have died and suffered at Parliament’s orders. Please do not deny them the freedom of expression Parliament guarantees.

Please ensure that legislation provides more than band-aid damage control fixes. Lets have a comprehensive veterans program like the US GI Bill and the World War 2 Canadian (original) Veterans Charter.

Sean Bruyea

The 2011 Federal Budget and Veterans: Band Aid Measures and Damage Control Programs do not Help CF Personnel Transition to Civilian Life

Ottawa: The 2011 federal budget includes two initiatives to assist veterans: $2 billion in new funding and the creation of the Helmets to Hardhats program.

Helmets to Hardhats

Helmets to Hardhats originated in the United States to assist young veterans leaving the service to seek skill training in the construction field. This program will have limited relevance and applicability to the Canadian context. The US employs large numbers of reserves for limited tours. They are released, by and large, young and healthy and can adapt readily to upgrade their skills in the construction industry.

Canadian Forces members on average have a higher education and are given greater skill training and responsibility while in the forces with most intending to make the military their career. If the member is healthy, they will likely remain in the forces until retirement, at which time physically demanding construction trades would have little relevance.

If the CF member is released for disability, it is unlikely that he/she would tolerate the demanding physical work environment of a construction site. Furthermore, their skill set would be better suited to more technically demanding and less physically strenuous fields on average.

$2 Billion in New Funding and Bill C-55

The announced $2 billion dollars appears as nothing more than a disingenuous diversion as no details have ever been made public. As such, there appears to be absolutely no substance to this new $2 billion in funding.

The recent veterans bill (Bill C-55) currently being debated in the Senate will be a cost-savings measure on an annual basis, saving the government from $20 to $60 million annually, which can be easily determined by analysis (details available upon request).

The legislation itself is highly restrictive in its criteria, requiring veterans already receiving a monthly pension to be assessed at greater than 100% in order to receive the so-called Permanent Impairment allowance. In order to receive the supplement of $1000 per month, the highly disabled veteran must jump through the bureaucratic hoops of no less than three program approvals as a prerequisite. This is not what the Minister promised when he said all disabled veterans unable to work would earn a minimum of $56,000 a year for life.

What is the Problem and What Needs to be Done?

The Helmets to Hardhats program for Canada is well-intentioned, but it was developed without a clear understanding of the needs of CF members transitioning to civilian life. No rehabilitation or veteran experts were apparently involved in the development of the plan as it appears to have been created in a bureaucratic policy bubble. Unfortunately, Veterans Affairs has consistently refused to allow veterans to sit as equal partners at the table to have direct input in the creation of valid, comprehensive and truly useful programs to assist veterans.

Part of the reason for this absence of a truly open, transparent and inclusive partnership is that not one senior manager (Director or above) in Veterans Affairs has apparently ever worn a military uniform. This is paternalistic condescension at its best. It is akin to having a construction worker prescribe medicine in lieu of one’s doctor.

Should Canada wish to emulate a truly successful and relevant program in the U.S., Canada should create a universal Canadian “G.I. Bill.” The G.I. Bill has provided post-secondary education and training to almost 22 million American service personnel and is not limited to those who are disabled.

Canada has no such program at present.

This is sad as Canada was the world leader in rehabilitating and educating its veterans after World War 2. All veterans had an opportunity to access university, college, all varieties of apprenticeships, business start up assistance, home purchase and land grants and all received transition income assistance, medical care and lump sum grants to help even a healthy transition. If the veteran was disabled, he/she received an additional lifetime monthly pension for pain and suffering.

In November, Canada witnessed the first nationwide protests of veterans in almost 100 years. The band-aid measures of C-55 and Helmets to Hardhats program will not quell the unaddressed needs of Canada’s 600,000 CF veterans and 90,000 serving CF personnel. More than 1,000 Canadian Forces members have not died and 65,000 have not been permanently injured in the demands of service so that smoke and mirrors is a substitute for dignified and comprehensive transition programs developed by veteran and medical experts for veterans.

CF veterans deserve the same programs as World War 2 veterans.

© Sean Bruyea

Members of the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs,

 I am writing to you today to urge you all to do the right and proper thing and vote against Bill C-55.

Following on the travesty that became the New Veterans Charter, Bill C-55 does not address the concerns of disabled veterans of the Canadian Forces, and even the areas that have been touted as being beneficial (such as the increase in Permanent Incapacity Allowance) are nothing more than applying a band-aid to a severed limb.

On the topic of the PIA, while the definition of a Permanent Incapacity does include the majority of severe injuries that the public has been led to believe will be covered by Bill C-55, the change in requirements to be approved for the PIA (Bill C-55 will require a disability assessment exceeding 100%) will unduly restrict the majority of severely disabled veterans from ever receiving that allowance.

Bill C-55 has not even received proper consultation from the veteran community, much akin to what occurred with the New Veterans Charter, especially since the majority of organizations that have been invited to provide input only represent small subsets of the veteran community, and rarely (never?) speak for those of us in the new generation of disabled veterans.

Please do the right and moral thing – vote against Bill C-55.


Walter Callaghan
Disabled Veteran

About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.
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3 Responses to NEW SERIES: The Canada Our Vets Want to Build — Their Fight for Rights and Compassionate Treatment POST SEVEN

  1. Pingback: News Highlights – 23 Mar 11 « Blog

  2. Alison Beil says:

    This Helmets-to-Hardhats program is ridiculous. Anyone suffering PTSD is coping with physical and mental exhaustion, and symptoms can be re-triggered by duress for years afterward. They could be more at risk in jobs requiring hardhats, and leave other workers who have no experience of war, at risk too. The returning vets deserve a break – they deserve support no different than my father received after WWII – funding to enrol in universities and be coached and encouraged to re-develop hope, and time to spend with their families in their home communities and churches.

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